Cast your mind back to 2014. Sebastian Vettel is the raining World Champion, Mark Webber is entering the twilight of his formula one career and another Australian, Daniel Ricciardo, is snapping at his heels showing impressive pace for Toro Rosso, the sister team to Red Bull. Through all this, 16 year old Max Verstappen was fighting his way through Formula 3. Nobody could have guessed that in two years, he would be the youngest driver to ever win a Formula One race. Now some people are branding him as the next Senna, amidst allegations that Charlie Whiting and the FIA are guarding some of his moves so as not to tarnish the reputation of the man who could very well be the next golden boy of Formula 1.
Max (born, Max Emillian Verstappen) was born September 1997, in Hasselt, Belgium. He grew up in a small town on the border of Belgium and the Netherlands, Maaseik. A few short years later, at four and a half years old, he was racing Go Karts. I don’t know about you, but at four my main concern was eating dirt and how long it was until nap time at Kinder, but not Max. You could think it was to be expected, after all racing is in his DNA. His Father, Jos Verstappen, was a Formula One driver. Whilst his Mother and Uncle competed professionally in karting and endurance racing, respectively.
In 2006 Max won his first championship, the Belgian Minimax Championship, and from there is has been an unstoppable ascendence, he went on to win the ’07 Belgian Cadet Championship and the Belgian Minimax for the second year running. 2009 saw two more championships and in 2010 he was signed to the CRG Factory team to race in World and European championships. Max came second in the KF3 World Cup and Won the WSK World Series.
After more karting wins, Verstappen’s car racing career kicked off in 2013. He became a test driver for various Formula Renault teams. He was noted to be putting in faster lap times than their senior drivers.
2014 marked the start of Max’s Formula 3 career. It was short lived due to the fact that in August 2014, despite an offer from Mercedes, it was announced that he would join the Red Bull Junior Team. Six days later, he was announced as Carlos Sainz Jr’s team mate at Toro Rosso because Kyvat was sent up to the big show at Red Bull…oh how things would change over the coming seasons.
His first race in Formula 1 was Australia in 2015, Max was in a point scoring position and two years younger than anybody who ever take a seat in a Formula One Car, that was until engine failure forced retirement from his inaugural Grand Prix. Malaysia provided Verstappen with his first points finish, 7th. Another engine failure plagued him at the Chinese Grand Prix and a high speed collision at Monaco earned him a reputation as a dangerous driver. He received ‘Rookie of the Year’, ‘Action of the Year’ and ‘Personality of the Year’ at the FIA End of Year ceremony. Best results for the season was 4th at Hungary and the USA Grand’s Prix.
2016 is the year Max Verstappen really exploded onto the scene, starting in Toro Rosso and quickly being thrust into a problem plagued Daniel Kyvat’s seat at Red Bull after the Russian Grand Prix. Max then did the unthinkable, helped along by unchecked Mercedes egos, resulting in Hamilton and Rosberg taking each other out of the race, Max went on to win his first ever Formula 1 Grand Prix, making him the youngest driver ever to do so.
Since then is has been strength to strength, albeit with a couple of close calls along the way. Scrapes with Rosberg, being subject to scrutiny from Ferrari for being favoured by race control for reckless acts. Does the sheer fact that people make such claims, further rectify the fact that, at 18 years of age, we very well could be seeing the arrival of the next Fangio, the next Brabham, the next Stirling Moss? Dare I say it? We could be looking at the next driver to come close to the levels once portrayed by the great Ayrton Senna or Michael Schumacher. Aged just 18, Max Verstappen has carved his name into the foothills of Formula One greatness. Let’s see if he can make it to the summit.